Good news for Better Beer fans in the other Portland. The nation’s largest outdoor craft beer festival — the Oregon Brewers Festival –witnessed record attendance with 70,000 people, a 15 percent increase over last year’s all time high. Beer sales followed suit, also showing a 15 percent increase. The four-day event concluded on July 27th at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
“We weren’t sure what to expect for attendance and sales given the economic situation, but we were prepared to take a hit,” explained festival director and founder Art Larrance. “Instead, rising gas prices seemed to have helped us. People are staying home this summer, and many chose to partake of our city’s mass transit and explore festivals taking place in their own backyard.”
The event kicked off on July 24th with a one-mile parade by brewers and beer lovers on the city’s sidewalks, led by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and accompanied by a small marching band. Upon arrival at the venue, Mayor Potter swung a wooden mallet to drive the brass tap into the official first keg of the festival, presented by Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.
The OBF served 73 different craft beers from 18 states across the country. The top selling product for the third year running was Cascade Brewing’s Razberry Wheat out of Southwest Portland. Another light, refreshing fruit beer to sell out early was Hell or High Watermelon by San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery. Portland’s Widmer Brothers Brewing sold a large quantity of its Full Nelson, an Imperial IPA brewed specifically for the OBF.
Reportedly, Beer lovers came from every state in the nation, and many countries around the world, to join in the celebration. The festival generated an economic impact of more than $1.5 million for the state.
Minors and designated drivers received access to the Crater Lake Rootbeer Garden, which served up complimentary cups of handcrafted root beer. Staff from the Wallowa Valley Together Project provided education on the potential dangers, risks, and unhealthy community norms associated with underage drinking; they were joined by high-school students of Teens Against Drugs & Alcohol, who promoted their “None before 21” campaign.
The Oregon Brewers Festival was founded in 1988 as an opportunity to expose the public to microbrews at a time when the craft brewing industry was just getting off the ground. Today, that industry has succeeded, especially in Oregon, where 60 brewing companies operate 90 brewing facilities. There are 30 breweries operating within the Portland city limits, more than any other city in the world; the Portland metro area boasts 38 breweries, more than any other metro area in the world. In fact, the Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the United States, even though Portland ranks 23rd in population for metro areas in the nation.
The Oregon Brewers Festival always takes place the last full weekend in July. The 2009 dates are July 23rd through 26th. For more information, visit www.oregonbrewfest.com.